For a long time, Mumbai’s Versova Beach was considered the most waste-ridden beach in India. In recent years, however, enthusiastic volunteers have decided to transform the situation. Their success is demonstrated by the fact that turtles have returned to the beach – for the first time in decades.
As the local population had used this coastline as an illegal waste dump for decades, a few years ago the area looked much more like a landfill than a beach. Afroz Shah, a young lawyer, finally had enough of the eyesore: in 2015 he teamed up with a few friends and began to clear up the waste on the beach.
As the weeks went by, increasing numbers of locals joined in the effort, although they were practically attempting the impossible. Thanks to their perseverance and the press coverage about their work, a few months later more than a thousand volunteers were clearing waste at Versova Beach (including employees of local companies, schoolchildren and even Bollywood film stars).
The end result is almost unbelievable: the enthusiastic citizens have removed almost ten thousand tonnes of waste from the beach, and they still keep on cleaning it to maintain its new condition. The UN has called the initiative “the world’s largest beach cleanup project” and it has awarded the Champion of the Earth prize to Afroz Shah.
The best evidence of their success is that in 2018, Olive Ridley turtles have returned to nest at the beach.
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